Hogle Zoo staff begins end-of-life care for beloved polar bear

Posted at 2:32 PM, Apr 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-08 16:32:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Hogle Zoo announced Saturday their staff has begun end-of-life care for Rizzo the polar bear.

According to a press release the 19-year-old bear is in renal failure, which means the kidneys are unable to filter waste from the blood.

Veterinarians observed kidney problems during a medical exam after keepers reported Rizzo was having trouble keeping food down and lacked energy.

“There’s a difference between a sleepy bear and one that’s not feeling well,” Primary Bear Keeper Joanne Randinitis stated in a press release. “Just like your pet at home, they tell you without using words.”

Veterinarians drew blood and performed an ultrasound along with an endoscopic exam.

“We immediately found her stomach was abnormal and inflamed,” said Dr. Nancy Carpenter, Director of Animal Health at the zoo. “And the blood work showed her kidney values were extremely high.”

The zoo states renal failure is not uncommon in older polar bears, and they said the median life expectancy for female polar bears is 24.

Veterinary staff are giving Rizzo medications and fluids to make her more comfortable.

“Keepers and veterinarians will continue to monitor Rizzo’s condition and comfort to ensure the highest quality of life during her final days but may ultimately be faced with a difficult decision,” the release states. “Rizzo’s passing will leave a polar-sized hole in the hearts of Zoo staff and guests alike.”

Rizzo arrived at Hogle Zoo in 2012 in conjunction with the opening of the Rocky Shores area. Hogle Zoo previously cared for polar bears from 1957 to 2003, and during that time they saw 10 successful cub births.

The press release states that polar bears are facing rapid loss of sea ice where they hunt, breed and den. Polar bears are one of Hogle Zoo’s “Big Six” signature conservation species.

“We are so fortunate to have Rizzo at our Zoo to be an ambassador for climate change and the struggles her counterparts are facing in the wild,” Randinitis said.